Rich v. Lambert
53 U.S. 347 (1851)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rich v. Lambert, 53 U.S. 12 How. 347 347 (1851)

Rich v. Lambert

53 U.S. (12 How.) 347


Where several owners of a cargo filed libels in rem against the vessel for damages done to the goods, and these libels were consolidated by order of the court, which afterwards decreed damages in favor of the libellants, in some cases to more and in some to less than $2,000, those cases where the damages are less than that sum must be dismissed on an appeal to this Court, for want of jurisdiction.

Where further evidence was taken after the appeal to this Court was entered, under the authority of an act of Congress passed in 1803, 2 Stat. 244, the issuing of the commission by the clerk of the circuit court, and the uniting by both parties in its execution, furnish a presumption that the proper order was given. If not, the parties have waived all objection.

Where goods on board of a ship received a damage which must necessarily have accrued during the voyage, the onus probandi is upon the master and owners to show that it was occasioned by one of the perils of navigation within the exception of the bill of lading.

The master is not to blame for bringing sacks of salt between decks if it be well stowed and packed and secured with proper dunnage. The usage of trade is to carry salt in that way.

The evidence in the present case shows that the damage was caused by the perils of navigation.

These two cases were included in the same judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of South Carolina, and were argued together in this Court upon an appeal from that judgment.

Page 53 U. S. 348

Originally, ten several libels were filed by the owners or consignees of goods shipped on board the Martha at Liverpool, bound to Charleston. The libels claimed damages on account of injury to the property by the negligence or misconduct of the respondents, and particularly that a large quantity of salt was improperly stowed. The proceeding was in rem against the vessel, in the district court of the United States.

Richard Rich, captain of the ship, intervened for himself as master, and for the owners, Abraham Rich and James Harris of Massachusetts, and Samuel Snow of Maine.

The answers denied all charges of neglect and mismanagement, and averred that all the cargo on board was well and securely stowed according to the usage of shipping; that the ship was sound, stanch, and every way fitted for the voyage; that she encountered severe gales and heavy seas on the voyage, and made much water, and in consequence thereof, and of the leakage of the ship, and the change of latitude and consequent warm weather, the water so taken in became warmed and was converted into steam, and caused a damp atmosphere to pervade the lower hold of the ship, which no power, care, or diligence on the part of the master could have avoided, but that the same was the inevitable result of the ordinary dangers of navigation &c.

The answers further aver, that the salt on board was stowed on the second deck, where it was necessary to be stowed, in order to steady the ship and prevent injury to the cargo in the hold; that access between that deck and the hold where the libellants' goods were stowed, was wholly and effectually cut off and was independent of the cargo in the hold and could have no effect upon the same more than if it had been stowed in another ship; that the salt was well stowed in the ordinary and customary part of the ship according to the approved usage of vessels trading to the United States from Liverpool.

Nine of the ten separate libels were ordered by the court to be consolidated. The tenth case, in which the South Carolina Railroad Company were libellants, was not included in this order.

A trial was had in the district court upon libels, answers, and proofs, which resulted in the passage of a decree in favor of the libellants awarding to them separately the following sums of money:

No. 1 Claim of Lambert & Brother . . . . . . . . $ 2,077.39

" 2 " John Graveley . . . . . . . . . . 447.90

" 3 " Barnwell & Ravenel. . . . . . . . 1,628.42

" 4 " A. Moffett & Son. . . . . . . . . 136.97

" 5 " W. & J. E. Adger. . . . . . . . . 868.29

Page 53 U. S. 349

" 6 " A. Gordon . . . . . . . . . . . . 442.34

" 7 " W. L. Timmons . . . . . . . . . . 806.77

" 8 " Dick & Crews. . . . . . . . . . . 350.02

" 9 " Morton & Courtney . . . . . . . . 214.64

" 10 " Jas. Adger & Co. . . . . . . . . 623.40

" 11 " S. N. Hart. . . . . . . . . . . . 368.02

" 12 " Watson & Johnston . . . . . . . . 460.26

" 13 " Roosevelt, Hyde & Clark . . . . . 172.09

" 14 " S. Mowry & Son. . . . . . . . . . 173.69

" 15 " South Carolina Railroad Company . 2,045.11




From this decree, the claimants appealed to the circuit court, where further evidence was heard, and the decree of the district court affirmed, with the further addition of $774.90, which had in the interim been paid to the respondents by the South Carolina R. Company.

The respondents appealed to this Court, and after the entry of the appeal took further evidence under the Act of Congress of 3 March, 1803. 2 Stat. 244.

Page 53 U. S. 352

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